A few weeks ago the Home Office Minster made a speech encouraging foreign students from beyond the EU to come to the UK to study….and many lecturer’s like me responded by shouting the bloody check of ya!
Since coming to power the UK government have gone completely Daily Mail on students and have cracked down hard on them with all sorts of new rules being imposed. Right now we’re being asked to carefully monitor students and we’re supposed to know where they are at all times (just a reminder we’re talking about students here, at home in bed or playing X-box! I think 70% of the time would be an accurate answer and the rest of the time the answer would be down the pub). If we fail to do it the uni can loose its UKBA license, which given how UK universities have become dependent on the financial contributions from foreign students, this has serious financial implications.
Now that said there are situations where uni’s have been rightly caught out, Glasgow Calley for example, while the University of Wales was caught out running a fake degree and visa scam. But even so the UKBA needs to cut us some slack and realise that not every student coming to Britain is a Terrorist/Illegal migrant. I think its fair to assume for example that Masters and PhD students (who we’re having to meet weekly and fill out forms to record what they are doing) can be trusted not to have entered the country just to get a job flipping burgers. After all they already have degrees and could get a good well paid job back home. Even if they wanted to get a job here, they’d probably not find it hard to get a company to sponsor a working visa application, so why waste time and money sneaking into the country on a student visa?
Similarly, a number of our undergrad students are here having paid many tens of thousands of pounds a year to come here and study. I think its reasonable to assume that someone whose paid that much money, isn’t going to squander it by getting a low paid permanent job (they are it should be noted often entitled to work a limited number of part time hours). Now, granted students who clearly aren’t showing up too class or applying themselves and we clearly get the impression that they are here to either party or work should be followed up, but its a matter of taking it on a case by case basis, whereas the UKBA seem to want us to treat alls foreign students as potential fence jumpers (guilty until proven innocent).
Of course this has meant that many of these students have tweeted home to their buddies not to come to the UK to study. Foreign student numbers are apparently down significantly which could leave a gap in the budgets of many universities, something that could be made worse if, as widely expected, the government’s rise in Tuition fees also puts off home students from attending university. Apparently most universities are planning around the assumption of less first year students next semester. Of course once those universities start making layoffs, then we’re going to see an immediate knock effect into the wider economy.
Government by Bungling
In essence, what we’re seeing here is another example of the current governments policy of governing by bungling and basically creating a crisis, then go running around in a panic with you’re hair on fire while trying to improvise a hasty solution.
Typically the government will do something, often penny-pinching to cut costs, such as cutting back on immigration staff at the UK border, then realise they’ve not got enough to cover the Olympics, queue panic as more temporary staff are drafted in, existing staff forced to work longer hours on overtime pay (costing the government more than its saving) and finally said remaining staff get sick of being treated like a commodity and go on strike.
Or in another example, the government advises G4S to go skimpy on wages to security staff at the Olympics, with the result that they fail to hire enough staff (ask yourself, if you’re a trained security guard and you can get, say £10 a hour guarding a local Salisburys, or £7 guarding the Olympics, which would you rather do?) and the army and police have to be drafted in, over stretching two forces that the government also plans to cut the numbers of (how fortunate for them that the army and police can’t go on strike also). Or how about that submarine that got grounded up on Skye and had to be rescued by a boat the government had just cut funding for and they had too hire out again! And let’s not even mention the mess regarding the petrol tanker strikes that ultimately never was.
Of course oddly enough for a government supposedly committed to cutting public spending the government has recently been spending money like a sailor on shore leave. They’ve announced many new improvements to the railway lines, new nuclear reactors, an airport in the Thames estuary and now a whopping £50 Billion in cash for no specific purpose.
What’s going on here is that the austerity measures taken after coming to power have started to slow the economy, driving us into recession and this has meant tax receipts are now falling. Already the signs are the government is going to have to borrow more in future, essentially proving that the government has made the deficit worse not better by its policy of austerity (as I warned would happen last year). Aware of this, and also aware that if such facts were to become obvious to the public that the Labour Party would be laughing all the way to Downing street come next election. The result is a panicky scramble by the government to essentially throw money at any project with enough zero’s behind it as part of a desperate effort to jump start a haemorrhaging economy.
Its a case of the government costing the country millions due to its miserly efforts to save a few penny’s. These thrift people cost themselves more money than they save! Nick Clegg and David Cameron are starting too look like an extended version of Laurel and Hardy, I’m just waiting for Cameron to turn to Clegg and say now that’s another fine mess you’ve… while Clegg starts fiddling with his hair and crying.
So I’ve a suggestion to the government from now on before you cut anything or bring in a radical new policy, pause for 5 minutes and think, why did the previous governments (both Tory and Labour) do it this way? Why did the UKBA seemingly have all these extra passport officers that they maybe didn’t have working at 100% hours all the time (to insure cover in peak times?). Why should private security staff be paid more? (cos then they might show up for work!). Why did the previous government go for Jump Jet’s off the carriers and want long range maritime patrol aircraft? (cos they though that come an actually shooting war it might be useful to have some kit that worked and was in service rather than some photoshoped images of stuff they’d like to get in a few years time).
A lot of the time I suspect you’ll find there’s a good reason to leave things well alone.